June 1, 2004

Mother-in-law's Complaint Leads to Criminal Summons

Although many homeschool families have relatives who are suspicious of homeschooling, it is relatively uncommon for a relative's complaint to end in a criminal summons, as recently happened to a member family in Western Virginia.

The mother-in-law was connected with the public school system, and was opposed to her grandchildren being homeschooled. She called social services and told them the children had never been in school. A police officer was dispatched to the family's home. The family explained to the officer that they were under the religious exemption. A social worker subsequently told the family that until they filed a notice of intent or officially requested a religious exemption, they were in violation of Virginia law.

When several weeks passed and the family had not yet filed their paperwork, the social worker swore out a criminal complaint against the family. The family then promptly filed their religious exemption paperwork.

At the first hearing, the judge told the family that he would dismiss the complaint if the school board approved the religious exemption. He ordered them to return to court after the school board made its decision.

The school board subsequently acknowledged the exemption. HSLDA attorney Scott Woodruff represented the family at the hearing. After he presented the school board's letter acknowledging the exemption to the judge, he promptly dismissed the complaint.

We recommend that families file their religious exemption paperwork before being challenged. For families who have the conviction that they are entitled to the protections of the statute even without filing, we strongly recommend that you prepare appropriate paperwork, keep it in a safe place, and file it immediately if you are challenged.